Harpswell voters OK $85K purchase of waterfront land

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HARPSWELL — Voters Tuesday approved the town’s purchase of nearly 6,000 square feet of waterfront property.

The referendum passed with nearly 71 percent of the vote, 806-344. Voter turnout was 29 percent out of the town’s 3,992 registered voters.

The decision allows the Board of Selectmen to sign an agreement to buy the property next to the Lookout Point town landing from Allen’s Seafood proprietor Dain Allen and his stepson, Albert Rose.

The purchase will use $85,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance to buy the Harpswell Neck land on Middle Bay, which has an assessed value of $92,000.

Selectmen have estimated the purchase will increase property taxes by an eighth of 1 percent, or $9 annually for a home valued at $200,000.

The purchase is meant to help the town protect waterfront access from private ownership.

Board Chairwoman Elinor Multer called the referendum’s approval “heartening.”

“I think it shows that Harpswell citizens are aware of the need to preserve water access,” she said. “I think that’s the overwhelming message.

“They look around and they see not only is (access) disappearing within Harpswell,” Multer continued, “but they see this in a lot of places. There’s a concern in preserving the working waterfront and access to it.”

Allen and Rose have traditionally allowed the public to use their land as an extension of Lookout Point for fishing and recreation purposes.

The agreement will allow Allen and Rose to continue to use the property for personal use up to 14 days at a time for the next 20 years. They said at an October forum that they don’t intend to use the lot too often.

Before the sale closes, selectmen will conduct an environmental study, title search and survey of the land.

If the results are unsatisfactory, selectmen can either terminate the contract, or purchase a portion of the parcel that meets the contract’s terms and conditions.

Multer said while the selectmen would like to explore similar opportunities in the future, they would likely wait a few years to consider another purchase.

“We’re not looking to wipe out our unassigned fund balance,” she said, “but a few years down the road if an opportunity came and we had the funding, we would consider it. More access is likely to disappear.”

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.